Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 12 - Sinai and Mount Moses

Day 12 - Moses Mountain Sunset Hike
Daytime High: 40 C
The van ride to te Sinai pennisula was quiet. We were equipped with breakfast boxes, which consisted of bread, bread, and more bread. Oh,. did I mention the bread? After this trip, I may have to skip out on bread for a while, like I have avoided eating eggs after Nepal. Thank goodness for left over pizza and Koshari. We had to pass through a number of checkpoints, in particular around the Suez canal for its obvious importance. The entire area was well protected with a definite miliary presence in the area adjacent the Suez Canal, which was much bigger than expected. We reached one military checkpoint and were informed by our guide to have our passports open with the Egyptian visa and our pictures. A soldier boarded our van, asked to see passport, and amazingly 14 hands shot up simulateously. After a very cursory glance at the passports, the soldier asked for his "bribe", a copy of the daily Cairo newspaper. There is always a price in Egypt.
We arrived at our hotel in the early afternoon, with very low expectations given the scenery (rocks, sand, and the very occasional shrub). Well, it was a welcome sight when we pulled up to Morgenland, a "resort" in the middle of the desert. This was truly an oasis, complete with a 75m long pool that looked so inviting. We were given some general safety instructions including checking of the bed for scorpions which like to hide under the covers and staying within the walls of the resort since we were in a protectorate (think national park) and there were many wild animals including Egyptian cobras and wolves. With that in mind, we prepared for our hike to the top of Moses Mountain.
Our Hotel in the Middle of No-Where - normal guests are scorpions and cobras
It was a short trip to the start of the hike up the mountain, which really is called Moses Mountain and NOT Mt. Sinai. In fact, there is no Mt. Sinai, rather the Sinai Mountain range. There were two paths to the top, a semi-gradual walking path with a 700 step final ascent or the Stairs of Repent, which consisted of 3,700 stairs to the top. Since I have buns of steel, I thought the stairs would be fun, but we went up the camel path instead. We were followed by a Bedouin camel herder, who hung out just waiting for one of us to drop on the walk. Well, it was agreed unanimously that the walk could not possibly hurt as much as riding a camel for two hours. My butt is still chaffed from the ride in Luxor. The intent of the hike was to get to the top of Moses Mountain in time for the sunset, and what an incredible sight it was from the top. There were a number of churches located at the tops of the mountains within sight, we got to the top with plenty of time for photos. We watched the colors in the sky change from a bright orange to a dull red as the sun set. It was a very nice way to end a hike. But, with no sun in the sky, it also meant that there would be no light on the way down, so we made our way back down via headlamp, which was very interesting. After several hours of the occasional Slip N' Slide, we were back to the bottom for the short trip back to the hotel.
Camel Rider Waiting Like Vultures for Someone to Drop...
Vince and Sherrill with Mount St. Catherine in the Background (highest mountain in Egypt)

Sunset from Mount Moses...Now starts the treacherous descent...
At the hotel, we had a nice buffet dinner before thoughts of the pool entered my mind. Now, if you were in the middle of the desert, with days reaching over 40 C, you would assume that the pool would be refreshing, but warm. Well, the pool must have had refrigerated water because it was COLD. I have swam in a lot of cold water in my life, and this would not be the coldest by any stretch of the imagination, but it still sucked the breath out of my lungs when I went in. After that, it was very comfortable and refreshing to cool off the body before hitting the showers for bed. It had been a rewarding day and we were both exhausted. We needed to recover our strength for our next stop... Nuweiba, a small beach town on the Red Sea!

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